With Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20th, a new vision for America has been ushered in. It is fiercely patriotic, blatantly xenophobic, incessantly belligerent and above all politically incorrect. A jarring departure from the poised, calm demeanor of former president Barack Obama.
Over the last eight years, Obama has been perceived as the peace-loving voice of reason, a shining beacon of composure and class in a world which seems to have none. His speeches are stirring and inspirational. His countless media appearances, appearing on shows like Late Night and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, solidify his star status. He is one of the most likable presidents in U.S history, leaving the Oval Office with an approval rating of 60 percent, the third highest all-time after Clinton and Reagan.
But behind all of the smooth talking and inspirational speeches, is Obama truly the courageous, pacifistic champion of the middle class he is perceived to be?
The facts about Obama’s presidency
In 2016 alone, he has authorized the dropping of over 26,000 bombs. 90% of those killed were not even the target of the drone. Although his anti-terrorist rhetoric is relatively subdued compared to Trump’s “bomb the shit out of ‘em” commentary, the tactics and results should be the same. He is the only two-term president to oversee wars for the entirety of his tenure.
Obama hasn’t managed to pass a single significant firearms legislation. This emotionally-charged, uniquely American debate required a leader who was ready to reach across the aisle and make compromises, but he was unable to do so. Furthermore, race relations continue to deteriorate, with the number of police deaths in 2016 the highest in the last five years.
Trump promises to lower taxes on the rich. Obama has similarly helped the rich, albeit obliquely. The Obama administration did not jail a single senior Wall Street banker for “the systemic fraud that precipitated the 2009 financial crisis.” These oligarchs walked free, despite costing taxpayers over $760 billion in bailout money in addition to committing felonies. To add salt to the wound, in Obama’s America 95% of all income gains are going to the top 1% of earners.
Controversy over the intrusive hacking by the Russians was front and center after the election. Trump condoned it, saying it didn’t make a difference, while Democrats intensely criticized it. However, keep in mind that under the Obama administration, the NSA has actually expanded its information gathering capabilities, and can now share its data with other agencies more easily.
High expectations, noble performance
It’s not all bad, though. Under Obama, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden was assassinated, unemployment rates have decreased, and a great depression was avoided. The Iran nuclear deal was signed and now more Americans than ever before have health insurance.
It is likely the unrelenting, politically-charged bitterness that has raised Obama to Messiah-level approval ratings. Americans were so disappointed with the political class that Obama’s professional, comforting demeanor was a welcome juxtaposition to the pettiness and vitriol of the Clinton-Trump battle.
We should not focus on Obama’s failings, but rather on his successes. He did not accomplish everything he set out to do. But it is not all about politics. Obama’s unfailingly optimistic outlook filled Americans with hope and pride – two things that will be absent over the next four years.